Warriors in trouble if Lakers' LeBron James, Anthony Davis can replicate Game 3 performances

If Los Angeles Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis − especially Anthony Davis − play like they did in Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers will win the series.

Simple answers don’t exist the deeper the NBA playoffs go. It’s a complex game played by imperfect participants.

For the Lakers though, their success comes down to the play of James and Davis, much like Golden State’s success depends on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and its 3-point shooting.

James and Davis put the Lakers in a favorable position against Golden State in their Western Conference semifinals matchup.

Responding to a blowout loss in Game 2, the Lakers returned the message with a 127-97 victory, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

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James had 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Davis came back from a pitiful outing Thursday and had game highs in points (25), rebounds (13), blocks (four) and steals (three).

Responding to a blowout loss in Game 2, the Lakers returned the message with a 127-97 victory, giving them a 2-1 series lead.

That Anthony Davis − a force on offense and defense − makes the Lakers a contender. The energy that was there in Game 1 and absent in Game 2 was back for Game 3. He is the most polarizing player in the playoffs. Dominant one game, ineffective the next.

Anthony Davis had a bounce-back performance in the Lakers' big Game 3 win over the Warriors.

Game 3:LeBron James overcomes slow start, Anthony Davis bounces back as Lakers roll Warriors

Now, the question that faces the Lakers ahead of Monday’s Game 4: Can they put together two consecutive strong performances and take control of the series?

The way Game 2 ended and Game 3 unfolded, I wondered if the Lakers had enough offense to win the series. Golden State took a 40-29 lead early in Game 3. Had the Warriors cracked the code and solved the Lakers, inching closer to another conference finals appearance? The answer was revealed.

James opened Saturday's game with passer’s mindset. Deferential to a fault, he didn’t take his first shot until 8:02 of the second quarter. He helped Davis find his offensive rhythm, and involved D’Angelo Russell, who scored 13 of his 21 points in the first quarter — including the first 11 points of the game for the Lakers.

Still, the Lakers trailed by 11 points until James became more aggressive as a scorer. Los Angeles finished the first half on a 30-8 run, and it carried over into the second half as the Lakers kept extending their lead.

"It wasn't how the game was planned, but that's just how the game was going, and for me, I'm never a force guy," James said. "I let the game come to me and make my imprint when needed."

The Lakers limited Curry (23 points on 9-for-21 shooting) and Thompson (15 points on 5-for-14 shooting) with tweaks to their defensive coverages. Curry didn’t have as much space to operate in pick-and-roll situations in part because of Davis' defense. The Lakers also excelled in the paint and made more 3-pointers than the Warriors and at a higher percentage.

The Warriors’ head-scratching tendency to make boneheaded plays and do senseless things surfaced in Game 3 with 19 turnovers leading to 27 points and two technical fouls and a flagrant foul.

Golden State is a championship team, and it will have a response just as it did in Game 2. Sometimes, a series goes back and forth like this even from blowout to blowout. Coaches put together counters, and players execute. That's playoff basketball.

But the Lakers have an opportunity at a 3-1 series lead. How James and Davis − especially Davis − play will determine if the Lakers are one victory away from the conference finals or locked up in a 2-2 series.

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